Gergana Ivanova

Gergana Ivanova

Japanese Literature and Culture

Professional Summary

Gergana Ivanova's scholarly interests include the reception of Heian period (794-1185) literature from the seventeenth century to the present, early modern (1603-1867) erotic and didactic literature, and present-day manga representations of the past. Her first book Unbinding The Pillow Book: The Many Lives of a Japanese Classic ( examines the transformations of The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon (Makura no sōshi, 11th c.) from the seventeenth through twentieth centuries in Japan as documented in a variety of sources, including scholarly commentaries, erotic parodies, instruction manuals for women, high-school textbooks, and comic books. Unbinding The Pillow Book was selected as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2019 by Choice and as one of the Seminary Co-op Notable books for 2021.

Ivanova's recent publications explore the role of Japanese "classics" in manga ( She is also completing a co-translation of One Hundred Exemplary Women, One Poem Each (Retsujo hyakunin isshu, 1847 Her current book project centers on the eroticization of tenth- and eleventh-century women writers in early modern Japan.

Ivanova teaches courses in Japanese literary and visual culture. 


Ph.D.: University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada, 2012 (Asian Studies; concentration in Japanese Literature)

M.A.: University of Toronto Toronto, Canada, 2006 (East Asian Studies; concentration in Japanese Literature)

M.A.: Utsunomiya University Utsunomiya, Japan, 2002 (International Studies)

M.A. (Bachelor-level studies included): Sofia University Sofia, Bulgaria, 1999 (Japanese Studies; concentration in Japanese Linguistics)

Research and Practice Interests

Premodern Japanese literature and cultural history; Heian (794-1185) women's writing and the construction of national literature in Japan; women’s education and literary criticism during the Edo period (1603-1868); gendered readerships; history of parody and adaptation in Japan; history of the book; text and image interplay.

Positions and Work Experience

08-2012 -08-2018 Assistant Professor, Japanese Literature, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

08-2011 -05-2012 Visiting Lecturer, Japanese Language and Literature, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO

09-2004 -05-2006 Team Lecturer, Japanese Language, York University, Toronto, Canada

08-2018 -To Present Associate Professor, Japanese Literature, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

Research Support

Investigators:Co-investigator 2014 -2015 Faculty Development Council 2014 Spring Departmental and Interdisciplinary Award (UC)

05-01-2014 -06-30-2014 University of Cincinnati University Research Council (URC) Faculty Research Grant

06-01-2013 -08-31-2013 Taft Research Center, University of Cincinnati Taft Summer Research Fellowship

05-01-2011 -07-31-2012 Japan Foundation Japan Studies Fellowship

2008 -2010 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship

2008 Centre for Japanese Research, University of British Columbia Research Grant

2007 -2008 University of British Columbia Graduate Fellowship

2007 -2009 University of British Columbia Okamatsu Family Scholarship for Japanese Studies

2006 -2007 University of British Columbia SunLife Special Graduate Fellowship

1999 -2002 Japanese Government (Monbukagakushō) Scholarship (Research Student)

1997 -1998 Japanese Government (Monbukagakushō) Scholarship (Undergraduate Student)

01-23-2014 -12-22-2014 URC Faculty Award, University of Cincinnati

06-01-2016 -06-30-2016 Taft Travel Grant for Research, Taft Research Center, University of Cincinnati

2016 -2017 Taft Research Center Faculty Release Fellowship

Grant: #R40745 Investigators:Ivanova, Gergana 07-01-2019 -12-31-2020 UC's AHSS Faculty Research Summer Stipend Program Ancient Women in Early Modern Popular Culture Role:PI $9,400.00 Active Level:Internal UC


Peer Reviewed Publications

Gergana Ivanova (2016. ) "Re-Gendering a Classic: Sei Shōnagon’s Pillow Book for Early Modern Female Readers" .Japanese Language and Literature, , 50 (1 ) ,105-54

Gergana Ivanova (2001. ) "On the Relation between Sound, Word Structure, and Meaning in Japanese Mimetic Words" .Iconicity in Language, ,

Gergana Ivanova (2021. ) "Reading the Literary Canon through Manga in the Twenty-First Century" .Japanese Language and Literature, , 55 (1 ) ,163−79.

Gergana Ivanova (2021. ) "Beyond ‘In Spring, the Dawn’: Redeeming The Pillow Book through Manga" .Japanese Language and Literature, , 55 (1 ) ,243−73

Invited Publications

Gergana Ivanova (2006. ) "Sound-symbolic Approach to Japanese Mimetic Words" .Toronto Working Papers in Linguistics, vol. 26 ,103–14.

Gergana Ivanova (2015. ) “Eiyaku sareta Makura no sōshi ga tsukuridashita taishūbunka” (The Pillow Book in English Translation and Popular Culture) .Kaigai Heian Bungaku Janaru (Journal of Heian Literature Overseas) , 2 (March ) ,11 -21.

Gergana Ivanova (2002. ) "On ni kakureta imi: nihongo no gitaigo no shūtoku e no atarashii apurōchi (Meanings Hidden in Sounds: New Approach to Mastering Japanese" Mimetic Words) .Journal of the Faculty of International Studies, Utsunomiya University , 14 ,71 -77.

Gergana Ivanova (2019. ) "Sei Shōnagon: Why Gender Stereotypes of an Ancient Woman Writer Still Resonate Today" .Columbia University Press Blog,

Gergana Ivanova (2019. ) "Why Study Japanese Literature outside Japan?" .Chiba Daigaku jinbun kenkyū (Chiba University Journal of Humanities) , 48 ,183-86.

Published Books

Gergana Ivanova. (2018. ) Unbinding The Pillow Book: The Many Lives of a Japanese Classic .New York , Columbia University Press (Author)

Book Chapter

Gergana Ivanova (2013 ) “Kinsei no josei dokusha to koten no taishūka: Nishikawa Sukenobu no Ehon Asahiyama o daizai ni” (Early-modern Female Readers and the Popularization of the Classics: Nishikawa Sukenobu’s Ehon Asahiyama) In Nishikawa Sukenobu o yomu: Nishikawa Sukenobu kenkyūkai ronshū (Reading Nishikawa Sukenobu: A Collection of Essays on Nishikawa Sukenobu) .(pp. 9-23).Kyoto, Ritsumeikan University Art Research Center


Invited Presentations

Gergana Ivanova (03-02-2012. ) Writing Women, Training Women: Constructions of Femininity in Early Modern Japan .Mellon Sawyer Seminar Workshop: Not Just Any Body: Raced Bodies & Reading Women in East Asian Studies, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO.

Gergana Ivanova (09-25-2014. ) “Eiyaku sareta Makura no sōshi ga tsukuridashita taishūbunka” (The Pillow Book in English Translation and Popular Culture) .Joint Workshop between the National Institute of Japanese Literature (Tachikawa, Japan) and the Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada) on The Possibilities of Classical Japanese Literature and Cross-Cultural Harmonies, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. Level:International

Gergana Ivanova (02-08-2016. ) The Knowing Woman: Representations of Sei Shōnagon from the Eighteenth to the Early Twentieth Century .UCLA Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies , University of California, Los Angeles.


Gergana Ivanova (03-30-2014. ) From a Guide to Court Life to a Guide to the Pleasure Quarters: Makura no sōshi in Early Modern Japan. Panel Presentation in “Reading Heian Writers through the Pleasure Quarters” .Philadelphia, PA.

Gergana Ivanova (10-26-2013. ) "The Pleasures of the Flesh and the Pleasures of Literature:" The Pillow Book in International Contexts .Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI.

Gergana Ivanova (12-18-2011. ) Kinsei no josei dokusha to koten no taishūka: Nishikawa Sukenobu no Ehon Asahiyama o daizai ni (Early-modern Female Readers and the Popularization of the Classics: Nishikawa Sukenobu’s Ehon Asahiyama) .International Research Center for Japanese Studies, Kyoto, Japan.

Gergana Ivanova (06-26-2011. ) Heian Writers and the Construction of Tokugawa Womanhood .International Christian University, Tokyo.

Gergana Ivanova (03-31-2011. ) Sei Shōnagon’s Pillow Book and Tokugawa Female Readership .Honolulu, HI.

Gergana Ivanova (03-05-2011. ) Kakinaosareta koten: Makura no sōshi o chūshin ni (Rewriting the Classics: The Pillow Book) .Iwase Bunko, Japan.

Gergana Ivanova (12-17-2010. ) Kinsei ni okeru Sei Shōnagon Makura no sōshi no kyakushoku (Early Modern ‘Versions’ of Sei Shōnagon’s Pillow Book) .Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan.

Gergana Ivanova (08-14-2006. ) Women’s In-jokes in Heian Japan: Makura no sōshi .Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops, Canada.

Gergana Ivanova, Norio Ota, Noriko Yabuki-Soh, and Michael Street (04-25-2006. ) Pros and Cons of On-line Testing for Languages Using Moodle .York University, Toronto, Canada.

Gergana Ivanova (10-01-2005. ) Sei Shōnagon’s Makura no sōshi: In Search for the Original Text .University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.

Gergana Ivanova (08-16-2005. ) Sound-Symbolism in Japanese Mimetic Words .University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.

Gergana Ivanova (06-30-2015. ) Rewriting the Japanese Imperial Court for British Audiences .University of Cambridge, UK.

Gergana Ivanova (03-27-2015. ) Heian Writers as Tools for Gender Training.” Panel Presentation in “Heian Writers and Female Readers" .Chicago, IL.

Courses Taught

JAPN 3051 Topics in Japanese Literature I

JAPN 3052 Topics in Japanese Literature II

JAPN 4005 Japanese Culture and Society

AIST 2082 Introduction to Japanese Culture

JAPN/AIST 3053 The Samurai across Time and Space

AIST/WGS 3054 Asian Women and Representation

AIST 2064 Study Abroad Japan: Gender and Sexuality in Edo Literature and Art

AIST 4051 Gender, Sexuality, and Popular Culture in Early Modern Japan

AIST 2085 Demons, Ghosts, and Monsters in Japan

AIST2080/EUST 2080 Global Monsters [Co-Taught]

Contact Information

Old Chemistry 728E
University of Cincinnati
Cincinnati  Ohio, 45221